Google is hoping to make Android enterprise-ready by separating work from play on employee smartphones. With Android Work, Google is aiming to make its mobile platform better for businesses, by borrowing heavily from Samsung's KNOX security suite, which is only available on Samsung Android phones like the Samsung Galaxy S5. Google Work, on the other hand, will launch on all Android devices running the upcoming Android L operating system update. Google is also planning to launch some components of Android Work as stand-alone apps for older versions of Android. Here are five features to look forward to.
With Android Work, instead of carrying separate smartphones for work and personal use, you can partition one phone into two separate profiles — one for work, and one for personal use. That means users can run enterprise apps and access business data in a secure work profile, separate from any personal applications, to help ensure that private data stays private. Businesses will have the option to create a secure work profile on an employee's Android device at any time, and work data will only be accessible when the employee is logged in to the work profile. This feature helps to prevent users from accidentally compromising company data, and also ensures that rogue apps don't access that information.
Having separate profiles for work and personal use also gives businesses control over work files, without encroaching on employees' personal space. IT departments will have the ability to monitor, restrict and even wipe data stored in a user's work profile, without affecting their personal apps and data. That could come in handy when a user leaves the company, or changes positions, since businesses can remotely configure devices on the fly.
Inside the work profile, IT departments maintain tons of control over how employees work. Managers can control which apps employees can access inside their work profile, whether your company uses dozens of apps or just a few. In addition, the new policy manager helps administrators manage how employees actually use those apps. The policy manager is a tool that lets IT departments configure settings for individual apps across all company devices so your business can quickly and easily tweak how all your employees work.
While Android Work makes it safer for employees to use their personal smartphones for work, it also adds features to help businesses deploy company-owned devices. For example, it lets IT departments set up new devices in a hurry, and contains options for automatically configuring a smartphone when it connects to the company's network. That cuts back on the tedious process of configuring new devices manually.
Also included are a slew of options to deploy apps to your employees' work profiles. Businesses can now purchase app licenses from the Google Play store in bulk, and then distribute them across company devices, all in a single transaction. Your IT department can make apps available to individual employees, groups or the whole company. Android Work also adds the ability for businesses to deploy company-owned, internally hosted applications to employees' work profiles via the Google Play store. Those apps are accessible only to users who are connected to enterprise servers on an approved device.
It can be cumbersome to maintain separate profiles for work and personal use on a single device, but Android Work solves that problem with unified alerts and notifications. That means that business users won't have to switch between their two profiles to check notifications. When an alert arrives for a work application, it will appear on your phone as any other alert would.
Your "Recents" list is also unified across both profiles. Recents are recently used apps that Android users can access by tapping the square multitasking button on the bottom-right corner of their Android smartphone. That means you can easily jump back and forth between work and personal apps with just a few taps.
Android Work also features an integrated app launcher. Thanks to this feature, you don't need to switch between two different profiles to access particular applications. Instead, work apps appear in your app library alongside your regular apps; a small briefcase icon helps differentiate them at a glance. When you launch a work app, it automatically runs inside your secure work profile. That means you can move seamlessly between tasks without fussing with multiple logins.
A variety of developer tools are debuting alongside Android Work. These tools may not affect users initially, but they'll benefit workers in the long run. Notably, Google is releasing a new app development interface that lets developers integrate their apps with the Android Work suite and build Android apps with deeper security features. That should help make Android a better business platform for business in general, and help its security compete with that of platforms such as iOS and Windows Phone.